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Airline Ticket Changes Will Hit Passengers In The Wallet

United Announced Increase Of At Least $200 For Changes On Domestic Flights

Passengers on United Airlines who need to make adjustments to their schedules will be hit with a fee of at least $200 for domestic flights under a new structure announced by the airline this week. The carrier has raised fees on some of its international routes as well.

But changing your ticket can cost far more than the basic fee. Time Magazine reports that on top of the surcharge for the privilege of changing your ticket, the passenger has to pay the difference between his or her original fare and the new fare at the rack rate.

The airlines have been steadily increasing the fees for years. What started as a $50 ding has turned into a $200 slap. According to the Wall Street Journal, in the first nine months of 2012, Delta and United collected $1.1 billion just from reservation change fees. In a prepared statement, United said that “We carefully manage our seat inventory and incur costs when a traveler elects not to fly in a reserved seat. We adjusted this fee to better compensate us for those costs.”

An airline analyst speaking recently on CNBC said that the empty seat argument does not hold water, given that airlines have cut the number of flights they operate reducing the number of seats available, an 80+ percent passenger use rate, and the airline's routine practice of overbooking flights to be sure seats don't go unfilled.

Analysts say that it is likely other airlines will follow United's lead in raising the change fees, as is common in the industry. Passengers on some low-fare airlines might find it more cost-effective to absorb the cost of the original ticket and start from scratch rather than pay the change fee.

Southwest continues to not charge a change fee, but does require passengers to pay the difference between the fares.

(image from file)

FMI: www.united.com 

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